CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 20. . . .February 3, 2017
Under the Umbrella.
Catherine Buquet. Illustrated by Marion Arbona. Translated by Erin Woods.
Toronto, ON: Pajama Press, March, 2017.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.
Review by Tamara Opar.
Reviewed from F&Gs.
Under the Umbrella, time seemed to stall.
The rain fell on...
The sky hung low...
The crowds crept by...
And none of that mattered at all.
I have always enjoyed reading rhyming text out loud to groups of unsuspecting story time children as the atmosphere of the story unfolds in a rhythmic manner and comes alive when I do. The pace and anticipation of the story is set through the authorís clever ability to create the mood with simple words. The dark mood of the man in the story is felt by the quick and short sentences within the rhyming text, and it seems to become more urgent with every step that he takes through the stormy streets of Paris. When the worst of all things happens and his umbrella is blown from his hands, the man encounters a young boy who transports him to a better place, a place that is bright and warm where the rhythm of the rhymes has changed the atmosphere to illustrate a luxurious longing for the treats in the shop window.
The contrast of the two characters is depicted in both the illustrations and the text. The boy is bathed in a bright yellow light as opposed to the moody man who is illustrated in shades of grey. The text becomes more descriptive and takes its time in sharing the story of how the two meet. The two characters become lost in the moment of sharing the gift of the red rhubarb-raspberry tart, and the stormy grey day is forgotten for a moment.
The writing and illustrations in this book complement each other well and work together to highlight the special moment that the two characters share. One could say that they are in the calm of the storm before heading back out to continue their day. This story can be read with a group or shared with one child quite successfully. I must confess, however, that I do have one little issue with the story, and that is with the question of the safety of children, and the lessons that are so often taught by parents of not speaking with strangers, let alone accepting gifts from them. Working in a library environment, I am always on my toes with respect to issues of child safety, and this story crosses some of these lines. When reading the story with children, the discussion might continue with respect to safe practices, as well as elaborating on the relationship between the two characters and in speculating that they are perhaps actually familiar with each other and that a guardian is not far away.
Tamara Opar is Section Head of Childrenís and Teen Services at Millennium Library in Winnipeg, MB.
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